Summer has been hard on me. We have done many wonderful things and made many wonderful memories, but the day to day is very challenging and made doubly so by a husband on a very rigorous travel schedule. Being with my kids for 24 hours a day/7 days a week has left us all a little on edge. Maybe it is the weakness that my three and a half year old smells, but nevertheless he has decided that this summer is an experiment in how to break Mommy. He has succeeded on many an occasion, but the great thing about parenting is that every day is a do-over. We have taken many a do-over.
On one especially tough week recently I knew I needed something, something that could provide a different perspective and pull me out of my rut. I bought the book “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. This parenting classic has been around for 30 years, but it is exactly what I needed at the time I needed it.
Big takeaways for me at this time in my parenting life:
- Many times I say things that don’t help. They don’t help the kids in their situation to feel or act better. And they don’t help me to feel or act better, mostly they just leave me feeling guilty. This book has brought me a new level of awareness and a desire to replace old habits with more helpful ones.
- When “engaging cooperation” my children respond best to describing the problem. Example: When my son has peanut butter on his face from lunch and I would really like him to clean his face. I used to say, “Go clean your face you have peanut butter on it.” Now I say, “I see a boy with peanut butter on his face.” Both lead to my son washing his face, but the latter is done without complaint and with enthusiasm.
- There is a whole section on “encouraging autonomy” that I think we do really well, thanks Montessori!
- Another section that spoke directly to me and my parenting this summer is the chapter on “freeing children from playing roles.” I had undoubtedly cast my lovely son as a mischief maker. I spoke about him that way to others and his sister. Sighed and lamented “What are we going to do with you?” Reflection is a powerful thing here, because gross, really. That’s pretty gross and unfair. But I recognize that and am recasting him by pointing out how sweet and thoughtful he is.
There are more takeaways that apply to my daughter and to future parenting issues and skills, like how to talk to teenagers. I also think this book is helpful in reaffirming some of my teaching skills as well.
I have also found this summer that when all else fails get a babysitter!